The Obama campaign has wasted no time trying to scare the elderly with lies that Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as his running mate signifies Romney's plan to destroy Medicare. Obama senior campaign advisor David Axelrod claimed on ABC's "This Week," for example, that Medicare would be in "a death spiral under this plan." Not content with that scary prognosis, Axelrod doubled down with the bogus assertion that the Ryan budget plan was an "attempt to do away with Medicare" and "a Trojan horse that ultimately will spell its demise."
That's interesting, considering President Obama's own characterization back in January 2011 of the Ryan plan as "an entirely legitimate proposal." Obama recognized that spending for Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements were "the major driver of our long-term liabilities" and that the right solution deserved "a healthy debate." But the Obama administration has ducked trying to solve this problem completely. In fact, it is making the problem even worse by sweeping over $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, which will rob today's seniors of the choices they now have under the current Medicare program.
"Who is in charge: the government or the patient?" Paul Ryan asked during a speech about health care last September at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Obamacare's answer is the government -- to the detriment of today's seniors.
Ryan has come up with an alternative market-based plan that prevents Medicare from self-destructing because of out-of-control spending, without substituting government mandates and rationing for the choices that are better left to patients, including seniors, and their doctors.
With their usual demagoguery, however, the Democrats are fraudulently distorting what the Ryan plan for Medicare reform would do now and in the future. They are maliciously scaring seniors with the downright lie that they will be thrown off the cliff if the Ryan plan is enacted, as one Democratic ad literally shows with a Ryan look-alike pushing poor grandma to her death.
The truth is that seniors now on Medicare, as well as those 55 and older, would not be affected at all by Ryan's proposed Medicare reforms. The reforms would only come into play for younger generations, who would have decades to prepare for their retirement. Younger people would still be able to choose Medicare as it is structured today or they could select among private insurance policies, with premium support provided by the federal government.
As Mitt Romney explained during a 60 Minutes interview in which he and Paul Ryan participated:
There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare.
What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, "We’re going to give you a bigger choice." In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That’s how we make Medicare work down the road.
Not only is the Obama administration robbing Medicare to pay for its new Obamacare entitlement, but Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and the regulations being churned out by the Department of Health and Human Services are all about top-down, government mandated health care rationing which will potentially deny seniors the means to pay for life-saving treatments if such treatments are not deemed cost-effective for elderly patients.
IPAB is a politically appointed 15-member Medicare payment board with the power to effectively take treatment decisions away from doctors and their patients by making recommendations to deny or reduce Medicare reimbursement for treatments that do not meet their one-size-fits-all cost effectiveness test. Its recommendations for acceptable and unacceptable treatment options that will affect today's seniors can only be overridden by a super-majority vote or the passage by Congress of its own Medicare plan that meets the same Medicare spending targets. Patients without the means to pay the complete cost themselves of treatments cut off from Medicare funding by bureaucratic decisions will have to go without treatments that may save their lives.
Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, admitted during her congressional testimony in July 2011 before the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in response to a hypothetical question that, if Congress did not overturn the IPAB bureaucracy’s recommendation for Medicare to reduce its reimbursement payments to seniors for dialysis procedures, seniors may well be left without the means to receive this life-saving treatment:
"Mr. Chairman, as you know, any cut in services, certainly cost shifting to beneficiaries, could mean huge reductions in care that seniors would have the opportunity to receive."
During a separate hearing before the House Budget Committee, Chairman Paul Ryan asked Sebelius a question that should be at the center of the debate over the future of Medicare:
“[I]f we invest all of the power and the funding decisions to a board of 15 people whose decisions go into law, don’t even go through Congress, is that the best way to save this entitlement and to restrain spending?”
President Obama thinks so. The question for the American people this November will be whether they agree with Obama or want to save Medicare through an innovative solution that protects senior patients' rights to make their own health care decisions.
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